Santander Department

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Department of Santander

Departamento de Santander
Coat of arms of Department of Santander
Coat of arms
Santandereanos siempre adelante
(Spanish: People of Santander always ahead)
Anthem: Himno de Santander
Santander shown in red
Santander shown in red
Topography of the department
Topography of the department
Coordinates: 7°8′N 73°0′W / 7.133°N 73.000°W / 7.133; -73.000Coordinates: 7°8′N 73°0′W / 7.133°N 73.000°W / 7.133; -73.000
Country Colombia
RegionAndean Region
EstablishedMay 13, 1857
Largest cityBucaramanga
 • GovernorDidier Alberto Tavera Amado (2016-2019) (Liberal Party)
 • Total30,537 km2 (11,790 sq mi)
Area rank12th
 • Total2,184,837
 • Rank7th
 • Density72/km2 (190/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC-05
ISO 3166 codeCO-SAN
HDI (2017)0.758[2]
high · 8th

Santander (Spanish pronunciation: [santanˈdeɾ]) is a department of Colombia. Santander inherited the name of one of the nine original states of the United States of Colombia. It is located in the central northern part of the country, borders the Magdalena River to the east, Boyacá to the south and southeast, the Norte de Santander Department to the northeast, the Cesar Department to the north, and the Bolivar and Antioquia Departments to the west. Its capital is the city of Bucaramanga.


Pre-Columbian era[edit]

Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, the territory now known as Santander was inhabited by Amerindian ethnic groups: Muisca, Chitareros, Laches, Yariguí, Opón, Carare and Guanes.

Their political and social structure was based on cacicazgos, a federation of tribes led by a cacique, with different social classes. Their main activity was planting maize, beans, yuca, arracacha, cotton, agave, tobacco, tomato, pineapple, guava, among others. Their agricultural skills were sufficiently developed to take advantage of the different mountainous terrains. The Guanes utilized terraces and an artificial system of irrigation. They had a knowledge of arts and crafts based on ovens to produce ceramics. They had cotton to make clothing and accessories such as hats and bags.


Spanish conqueror Antonio de Lebrija led the first expedition through the area in 1529. The area was later invaded c. 1532 by German Ambrosius Ehinger in a quest to find El Dorado. This disrupted or destroyed many of the Amerindian villages. Some ethnic groups like the Yariguíes, Opones, and Carares fought the conquerors until they became extinct. Explorer Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada later went to the area in an effort to appease the tribes. The colonization process in the area was started by Martín Galeano who founded the village of Vélez on July 3, 1539 and Pedro de Ursúa and Ortún Velázquez de Velasco founded the village of Pamplona (now part of the Norte de Santander Department) in 1549.

Once the Amerindian tribes were dominated, the Spanish organized the territory based on Cabildos (councils) to maintain the dominance and administer justice in the conquered territory. Amerindians were assimilated and subject to the encomienda regime to work in agriculture, manufacturing goods, and mines. These two villages functioned as centers for the Cabildos' territories. In 1636 the Cabildo of Vélez was transferred to a new jurisdiction centered on the village of Girón, with an area which went from the Sogamoso River, Río del Oro to the Magdalena River. The village of San Gil was created in 1689, segregated from the Jurisdiction of Vélez. In 1789 the village of Socorro was also segregated from Vélez and they were all put under the mandate of the Province of Tunja, a subdivision of the Viceroyalty of New Granada. On July 9, 1795 the corregimiento of Vélez – San Gil – Socorro was created due to the unsustainability of the Province of Tunja, and local government was established in the village of Socorro.


Historical population
1973 1,127,999—    
1985 1,511,392+34.0%
1993 1,811,741+19.9%
2005 1,957,789+8.1%
2018 2,184,837+11.6%

During the colony and independence war times, people from Santander were specially recognized for their bravery in battle and their policy of "not even a step back". Soldiers from Santander were valued and respected but also difficult to control as they were, in general, more politically aware than people from other regions and therefore prone to question orders and law. Nowadays, they still retain those features as 'Santandereanos' are normally depicted as cranky and stubborn, not afraid of anything, proud in extreme and speaking their minds without further consideration. However, people from Santander are also very gentle and kind, have some social conventions of basic etiquette like saying hello first if you are the one arriving and never visiting someone for the first time without a small present. In general, they are normally warm and respectful, but try not to make them angry.


Santander cuisine, referred to as santandereas, includes regional specialties and food from the Department's capital city of Bucaramanga and other cities such as Cepita.

The most famous dishes are sancocho, oreada meat, mute, egg broth, yellow arepa, masato, guarapo, aguapanela, tamale, and the exotic culona ants. Read on to discover these foods and more:


Usually accompanied by pepitoria and yellow arepa, this delicious dish can be eaten fried, oven-baked, or dryed.

Arepa Santandereana[edit]

Flat corn bread). This dish has among its ‘secret’ ingredients chicharron (pork belly-fat) and cooked peeled corn. When possible, the peeled corn is roasted in clay pots, to provide even more flavor.


A delicious soup prepared with a variety of ingredients such as red meat, tripe, beef ribs, grains, potatoes, pasta, corn, and spices. Due to the ingredients included, it is a bit thick, but also really delicious.


Pepitoria, is prepared with the intestines of a goat or lamb. Served with rice, yuca, and potatoes.

Santander tamale[edit]

The tamale is a dish that is eaten in various parts of Colombia, but in Santander it is prepared with peeled corn dough and filled with beef, chicken or pork, chickpeas, onions, and paprika. It is then wrapped in banana leaf giving it a rectangular shape. 

Oreada meat[edit]

This is a marinated, salted, sun-dried beef ready to grill. A classic dish, you’ll find it in many restaurants as a specialty. Served with yucca and chili, it’s delicious!

Hormigas Culonas (Big Bum Ants)[edit]

A traditional dish of the Guane indigenous inhabitants of this region. The head, wings, and legs of these giant ants are removed, leaving the body and bum to be fried and seasoned with salt.

Bocadillo Veleño[edit]

Created in the town of Vélez, the Veleño Sandwich is prepared with the pulp of ripe Guava and is wrapped in a bijao leaf, giving it a characteristic flavor. Combined with goat cheese it is a perfect marriage


A soup prepared with water, potatoes, toast, coriander, egg, and milk, and enjoyed for breakfast or lunch. There is also a variation called changua or chingua, which is normally prepared only with water, potatoes and coriander.

Floridablanca wafers[edit]

The wafer is a superfine cookie that is spread with Arequipe (caramel, sweetened milk spread). Over time, other ingredients such as cheese, blackberry, chocolate, etc. have been incorporated.


Masato is a fermented drink that is prepared with rice, water, wheat flour, sugar, cloves, and cinnamon. All this together forms a desired drink to accompany fritters or meat patties.

Chorizo from the San José Valley[edit]

12 km from San Gil, on the road that leads to Charalá, you will find a town called Valle de San José. People from this region say this is the best Colombian Chorizo, but people from Santa Rosa de Cabal, in the Coffee Zone, will tell you the same.



The most outstanding and representative artists of the Colombian Santander department are Segundo Agelvis, Mario Hernández Prada, Carlos Gómez Castro, Martín Quintero, Oscar Rodríguez Naranjo and Pacheco de Suratá.

Notable people[edit]

Antonia Santos

Administrative divisions[edit]


The department is subdivided into provinces:


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Estimaciones de Población 1985 - 2005 y Proyecciones de Población 2005 - 2020 Total Municipal por Área (estimate)". Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  2. ^ "Sub-national HDI - Area Database - Global Data Lab". Retrieved 2018-09-13.
  3. ^ "Reloj de Población". DANE. Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadísitica. Retrieved 6 July 2017.

External links[edit]